For a few individuals on either side to try to dominate the agenda this way in a supposed democracy raises its own fundamental questions — and arguably shows a cavalier disregard for democracy itself. But the opposition to the Koch brothers has pushed beyond that, to accusations, in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s words, that they are “un-American” and are “trying to buy America … to benefit themselves.”
As a private company, not much is known about Koch Industries, although its website says it has 60,000 employees and annual revenues of “about $115 billion” — which would make it 16th or 17th on the Fortune 500 list of public companies, just ahead of IBM or JPMorgan Chase.
A full-bore look inside the conglomerate would produce all kinds of interesting angles before we even get to the question of whether the brothers’ political spending is a wholly self-interested investment by people who care only about themselves. To take one narrow example, what kind of health insurance do employees get at the company owned by the brothers who have financed tens of millions of dollars of attack ads on Obamacare, using fictitious accounts of people victimized by the law?
But the larger question, answered only by a complete look at their businesses and the link between them and the political causes they are funding, is whether the Koch money firehouse is, at its core, their version of an investment in a better planet or, as opponents like Reid charge, a better profit and loss statement.
2. Someone please explain bitcoin:
Okay, I admit it. Although I consider myself a fairly sophisticated businessperson and reporter, and although I have read a ton about bitcoins, I have no understanding of what they are, how they work or are supposed to work.
Please, don’t tell me it’s “virtual money,” or some such thing. Tell me exactly how a bitcoin system is supposed to operate. What is virtual money? Yes, I know that the dollars in my pocket are virtual money — because they’re just pieces of paper. But I also know that they’re universally recognized and guaranteed by a signature from the Treasury secretary to be “legal tender.”
Who is supposed to be standing behind bitcoin and why would anyone believe it’s worth anything?
This New York Times story last Saturday about the “miraculous discover of about $116 million in missing Bitcoin” got me frustrated all over again.
Here’s the key sentence:
“In a posting on its website in both Japanese and English, the now-defunct Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox announced that it had found the coins in an ‘old-format wallets,’ the virtual currency equivalent of finding money in another pair of pants.”
Do you know what the means? Or do you just think you should because it’s in the Times?
It’s time for a sophisticated journalist who can write and speak jargon-less English — like Floyd Norris of the Times, or Jim Cramer of CNBC, or maybe even Michael Lewis — to help us.